The week after returning home from Haiti is my time for reflection; processing what I saw and felt, even smelled. Smelled? Let me explain that one briefly. In Haiti, you experience a plethora of odors. One moment you are inhaling the tropical aromas of ferns and flowers, the next moment your nostrils are infiltrated by some unknown ickiness. Is that sewage? Or something dead? Oh, good, I smell the flowers again. ((Sigh of relief)) The combo of dust, diesel exhaust, smoldering garbage, and odors from the general wet muck that lines the streets will allow you to take home a free sample of the essence of Haiti’s not-so-pretty side. Actually, it’s downright awful. A ride in the back of a truck through Port-au-Prince will assure that you will yearn for a shower as soon as possible. From the comfort of my home in Kentucky, a swab of a Q-tip revealed that some of Haiti, in the form of black gunk, had hitchhiked home with me in the creases of my ear cartilage. That makes a girl feel oh-so pretty.
Now onto the subject of what I saw and felt. I can’t possibly put it all into words; there’s just no way. Some things you just have to experience for yourself to “get it.” But I’ll try my best just for you, especially since you’re going to the trouble of reading this. Thanks, by the way!
Sadness. I saw some real, raw sadness. It made me sad. (Note: “sad” is a very inadequate word, but let’s just roll with it.) It made me say under my breath, “I am so sorry. I am sorry you have to go through this. I am sorry I can’t just make it all better.” It made me pray for God’s mercy. Come, Lord Jesus, come. No magic wand or genie in a bottle will fix the hurt and suffering in Haiti. At best, healing and improvement will come very, very slowly. But some things will never go away. Like the grief of losing a child or losing a mother. Only God’s mercy will ease the pain in the aching hearts I saw. I have no doubt that God can do anything, including bring Haiti and her people out of despair. But I don’t know or understand God’s plan. In His time, in His way. Father knows best. In the meanwhile, my best tool is prayer. And so I will pray.
One afternoon in particular, the sadness made my heart ache so much that I just had to escape to a quiet place to grieve for a few minutes. That morning, a mother had made the heart-breaking decision that she had no other choice but to give away her child. It was agony for her, clearly. Some of the other volunteers passed her walking down the dusty, rocky road with her baby in her arms, tears streaming down her face. She was, in fact, walking to GLA to find a place of hope for her frail baby girl. Those were tears of grief and acceptance of what she must do in order for this child she so loved to survive. Survival meant she must say good-bye. So unfair. So painful. At home, she had more children, more mouths to feed. This baby girl had special needs, needs which she was incapable of satisfying. Best-case scenarios and healthy babies are difficult enough to provide for in Haiti. Add some hard stuff to the equation and you’ve got a situation that is too overwhelming, even for a mother that dearly loves her child. This mother, frail herself, loved her baby so much that she was willing to give her away. Her hope for her baby’s future, a hope for improved health and a fed belly, a hope for education and a family that could give her baby things that she never could (as in: a roof overhead, medicine, clothing, etc.), this is what gave her the strength to walk this most painful path. Just minutes before she said good-bye to her little girl, I passed her in the waiting area. The mother, I’m guessing to be in her mid- 40’s (which is almost elderly, in Haitian statistics), was attempting to breast-feed one last time. Next to her baby’s mouth, she held her shriveled breast, void of life-giving milk. At four months old, her baby weighed only seven pounds. Downs Syndrome had impaired the little girl’s ability to suck and swallow well. Death was not far from her little body. In the seconds as I walked by, a snap-shot of the mother’s face was ingrained into my memory. Absolute sorrow. Pain that only a Savior can ease.
Later in the day, I watched a new boy in the nursery struggle with the pain that was ripping him apart inside. Just a few days earlier, his family said good-bye to him. I don’t know his story, but does it really matter? I asked the head nurse if he was experiencing physical discomfort from finally receiving nutrition after his starving body had gone without enough food for so long. Was this the reason why he flailed his legs and cried in pain? No, was my answer. His heart just hurts that much, that intensely. He misses his mother.
I am so sorry, little one. I am sorry that you are going through this pain. I wish I could take it away. I wish you could pour it out into me and I would carry it for you. No child should have to suffer such heartache. It isn’t fair.
Jesus, have mercy.
In order to not end on such a dismal note, let me share this with you. GLA is hope, with an incredible staff that is divinely blessed with the ability to nurse these children back to physical and emotional health. A look around the nursery will show you this fact. After a time of transition has passed, the kids begin to smile and play. Bonding with their nannies takes place. Bellies are fed, bottoms are cleaned, and some sense of normalcy is established. Medication is administered, even for the deworming that is necessary. (Yes, worms in the gut. Such is life in Haiti.) For those especially fragile, round-the-clock nurses work to mend sickly bodies. And with God’s grace, most often, they are healed. Sometimes He calls His angels home, despite the staff’s best efforts. But His hand is holding each and every child that enters through the GLA gate. Our Lord is in this place. On a mountainside in Haiti, a light shines, giving hope of life. Hope because of the one true God. GLA – God’s Littlest Angels – where hope in Jesus gives more than life in this messed up, cruel world. Through Him, a perfect life awaits. A life where no tear will fall, no pain exists. A life that is never-ending.
Jesus. That is the life-change that GLA ultimately offers. Everything within the GLA walls is done in His name, for His glory.
**Note: GLA goes to great effort to keep families together. The giving up of a child is never a sweet solution, but sometimes, it is the only choice. We are thankful for the lengths that GLA goes to to ensure that the decision is indeed correct for each child that is accepted into their care and put up for adoption. The child’s best interest is certainly followed. Not all children are accepted into GLA, for a number of different and complicated reasons. Some children are brought into GLA for medical purposes only; when their health is better, they are reunited with their family. GLA maintains a reputation throughout the country of a place where miracle healings occur. It is with great discernment and prayer, and of course, extraordinary favor of God, that GLA is so successful…in a land where everything is incredibly hard.